Buddha statue (death pose), Gal Viharaya, Polonnaruva – Pic by Samadara Ginige
I was born a Buddhist. As most Buddhist children would, I too learned the institutional-religious system. I’ve moved beyond that, and now trying to understand its core scientific explanation of life, the life Gautama Buddha and how Buddhism relates to everyday life.
I have studied other religions and have consciously decided to be a Buddhist. For a nation that has been designed for millennia based on Buddhism, our people (disclaimer: not all) do some really stupid things. Here are the top 5:
1. Wishing “Budu Saranai!” (May you have the protection of Buddha)
First of all, Gautama Buddha is no more. It is believed he died some 2,500 years ago. His mortal body was cremated. He will never return. He will not be resurrected. He’s not living in some spirit form. Nirvana is not some celestial paradise the enlightened ones go after death.
In fact the very reason Siddhartha Gautama left his kingdom in search of salvation is to put an absolute end to the cycle of re-formation. So the Buddha doesn’t exist and therefore cannot protect you. In fact Buddha teaches that “the only one can protect you is yourself”. Only a fool would wish somebody “BS” (the abbreviated form of Budu Saranai often used at the end of a text message…) or for somebody to expect and pray for the protection of Buddha.
Worshipping Buddha out of respect for his teachings is one thing, but praying to a statue is meaningless. The highest level of this stupidity is demonstrated when people put up a board with the words “Budu Saranai” on half-built houses or buildings. What are they expecting? Buddha to secretly build the house? Give me a break!
2. Expecting protection from chanting Buddha’s teachings
We all know that the majority of the Lankan Buddhists, young and old, doesn’t know the meaning of the verses they chant over and over. They are in Pali language and most of us don’t know Pali. So what we are actually doing, is chanting some words in a language we don’t know, without knowing what those words actually mean, and expecting protection from the act of chanting. Can it get any more stupid than that?
Loud chanting must have been a necessity during and after Buddha’s life in order to teach and to pass the teachings from generation to generation, until it was written down. Yet, here we are chanting “pirith” on radio, on television, on loudspeakers, at religious activities without knowing what on earth they mean. If only we try to learn Pali or read the Sinhala translations would we understand the actual meaning of the teachings. It is an absolute mockery for a reasonable Buddhist to expect rain from chanting anything!
3. Eating meat right after wishing ‘May all animals be happy!’
Lankan Buddhists are the worst type of hypocrites of all religious people. They would find weird excuses and mind-boggling arguments to eat meat, that even if Gautama Buddha did exist in some spirit form in the land of Nirvana, would make him laugh like the laughing Buddha (two different subjects).
One of the corner stones of Buddhism is utmost compassion to all animals. It is so much so that Buddha teaches that one must have “Karuna” (a combination of love, kindness and compassion) to all animals in the same way that a “mother would love her only child”.
There’s no way a reasonable Buddhist knowingly eat meat after shouting out the verses claiming to have that much of compassion to all animals anywhere and everywhere (yes, fish is meat; yes, dried-fish is meat; yes, salmon is meat…). Actually a real Buddhist must act against all forms of animal cruelty. Please save your convoluted, misinterpreted, nonsensical arguments. A special mention about the Buddhist monks who knowingly and sometimes by request eat meat – you are nothing but fakes.
4. Fighting for ancient religious sites “after” Muslims occupy them
Lankan Buddhists are funny creatures. We have some of the world’s most fascinating Buddhist archaeological sites scattered all over the country. We haven’t even excavated or preserved most of them. But the ones which are at least somewhat preserved are being polluted and neglected. There are thousands of sites with ruins of a Stupa or a monastery with broken statues and stone pillars which are just neglected and left to further ruin.
But when some Muslims for their own stupid reasons go and occupy one of those sites, Lankan Buddhists get all worked up. Nobody would’ve occupied anything if we took care of those places in the first place!
5. Removing preference to Buddhism from the Lankan Constitution
When we have a thousand and one more important things to do, some people want to remove a clause from our Constitution. Leaving aside the political debate, I would like to point out how stupid the whole thing is. What does it really mean when the Government is required to give the foremost place to Buddhism? At the least it should implement the basic precepts of Buddhism.
If the clause is in effect, then the Government should ban slaughtering of animals, eradicate corruption and theft from top to bottom, implement severe punishments to all forms sexual harassment, ban production and selling of alcohol and tobacco products, none of which are even remotely done here.
If the leaders of the country are following the constitutional clause, they will never deceive the people, they will not be stealing public money, they will not import luxury vehicles over and over, they will not brag about how many women they slept with, they will behave decently and will operate on the moral values of love, compassion, generosity and tolerance. That clause was never implemented since the day it was written. Because if it was, we would be in a whole lot better place.
The best thing that can happen to Sri Lanka right now is Lankan Buddhists having a hard reality check, more like a hard reality slap. Buddhism in Sri Lanka has become a joke. It’s governed by some Laissez-faire chief monks we only see on television when politicians visit them at their high-chambers. Most of the ordinary monks speak nonsense in their preaching. Most temples have become business operations. Politicians abuse Buddhist sentiments. Extreme fractions are fighting senseless battles. Buddhists have become the worst enemy of the Muslims.
Catholic pastors are preaching Buddhism while singing songs. Young monks are jumping over fences to protest against the Government. More meat and alcohol are sold than usual on the day before a Buddhist holiday. Sunday newspapers are filled with classifieds from witches and spin-doctors. And one mad man is hoodwinking the people claiming to be the new Buddha while acting on a lame music video with a glow around his head added by Adobe After Effects! What kind of a stupid version of Buddhism is this?
What did I miss? Write them in your comments.
(All opinions in this article are of the writer.)